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Domestic Violence in the Digital Age


Technology, while a very helpful tool in this day and age, can also be a tool used for violence.

A Californian woman experienced this while she was trying to get away from her controlling and violent husband. She planned to escape to Oregon and stay with friends but her phone’s GPS was used by her husband to track her down. He searched her phone records which helped him determine where his wife was staying.  After locating her whereabouts, he started calling the woman’s friends and even left them threatening voice mails saying he would kill anybody who helped her.  

There is no question that technology of smart phone has made life more convenient and has connected a lot of people. Flipping the coin, this technology has also made it harder for domestic violence victims to escape from their abusers.

Cellphones keep detailed call log information, GPS services, and applications. The principal wireless account holder is granted access to all this information. This also includes application purchases and the GPS location of the wireless phones under the account.

With the family plans becoming more popular, the principal account holder may be able to control the entire family’s cellphone service.

When the principal account holder is an abusive person, they have the ability to turn their victim’s cellphone as their weapon against the latter. This is done by interrupting their service, or using the information contained in their account to intimidate and stalk them.

Federal Communications Commission regulations are requiring 95% of cellphones to have GPS technology. This technology is undoubtedly helpful in emergency cases. However, national statistics show that approximately 10 million men and women experience abuse from their intimate partner every year with the use of this technology.

Therefore,  there is an obvious need for a mechanism to protect the victim’s information from the wrongful use of another person.

California Assembly Bill 1407 intends to correct this problem. This bill ensures that victims of domestic violence will have sole access to the billing accounts of their wireless phone and the sensitive information contained therein.  

Domestic violence is a known problem which is difficult to escape from.  This is because surviving this means that victims must leave behind their home and abandon their daily routines which are considered the most familiar and intimate parts of their life.  

One of best things for victims to lean on is a strong support network of family and friends who can be their safe haven. If their access to cellphones and vital contacts contained therein will be cut off, this will weaken the support system. It is important that to give victims a way to communicate and connect with their loved ones to ensure a level of normality in their lives.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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